Having trouble viewing this email? Click here April 29, 2020

Conference Call

John VertiganGreetings, church. I'm writing from home today in the makeshift office space I created when we determined to close the office at 9300 University in light of the governor's order to stay at home. I was reminiscing this morning about those days back in mid-March when we had conversations about how to collect the offering in church in a safe way, how to share communion, whether we should have greeters and ushers in place and my, should we continue to pass the peace! It seemed unlikely, at that early stage of this crisis that we would close our church buildings and cease offering public worship in the way we have so long associated with being church.

But look what we've done! The church continues outside the building. The ministry has seemed to deepen as our priorities have become clearer. Our love for, and commitment to, our local congregations has been demonstrated by our attendance at online worship and our continued giving through web-based donor portals or the good old fashioned U.S. Mail. Because of you, the Gospel continues to be told again and again and again in new and creative ways. Blessings be upon you.

Still, some of us are itching to get back into our buildings. Last week, the Conference hosted a ZOOM meeting to talk about when churches plan to re-open and when it might be prudent to do so. In addition to what I gleaned from that meeting, I have also been paying attention to what is happening in the UCC around the country and what the science seems to bear out on a daily basis.

First, the ZOOM meeting confirmed for me that folks want to meet in their buildings and that we shouldn't do that just yet. I don't know (at this writing) of a congregation in the Florida Conference that plans to resume public worship on-site in the month of May, and I personally recommend against it. Second, we are not alone in this. The same conversations are happening around the country in UCC Conferences aiming to provide best practices to congregations everywhere. The "stay closed in May" guidance dominates the advice being given by my counterparts in every region of the UCC. In that light, the Conference Church House at 9300 University will remain closed until May 31 while we keep our eye on the changing landscape of the COVID19 crisis. Our staff will continue to work from home to meet your needs even as all our local pastors are working hard to meet your community needs in new ways. Our regional staff will continue under a no-travel order to minimize the potential that they could carry a virus from one site to another. Mail is collected regularly and managed in a timely manner. Phone calls are forwarded to cell phones, and we're still returning your calls. Life goes on and the church goes on even as we face new challenges and reinvent ourselves daily.

So may it be with all of our congregations. Please continue to worship while separated. Hold online Bible studies, virtual coffee hours, and hymn sings. Keep on with your faithful and hopeful giving to your local church so that bills can be paid and staff can rest assured in their ability to minister in your midst in such a time as this. Pray for one another even as we pray for each of you who, collectively, are the United Church of Christ in Florida, ministering from a distance, that we may all be one.

Be at peace, and be in touch, won't you.

Rev. John Vertigan
Conference Minister

We are with you

A letter to our churches from the officers of the United Church of Christ

Dear Friends in Christ,

We send this with the magnitude of our emotions written large on the surfaces of our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits. We feel deep pain, loss, and anguish on our collective behalf for all that we have experienced in the last two months. Worship in our sanctuaries has come to a sudden halt. Jobs and incomes have been threatened, if not lost. Loved ones have suffered or died from a hidden enemy for which there is no current remedy.

Our sheltering in place is exhausting. For many of us the loss of human contact, the drudgery of unchanging surroundings, our inability to frequent places that brought joy to our lives, and the call to adapt overnight to overwhelming change are taking a toll. -> Read more ->

We are also witnesses in this time to heart-warming acts of human kindness and solidarity that speak to the angels among us. We are not only making great sacrifices, we are doing so in a collective effort to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us. The courage, stamina, endurance, compassion and empathy being practiced among us remind us that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. The power of a faith enriched by Easter joy and resurrection hope is not diminished by anything. Neither death nor life, not angels or demons, not power and principalities, not height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). -> Read more ->

Boundary training opportunity: Youth ministry during COVID-19

Join us on May 5 at 2 p.m. for a discussion on Boundaries and Youth Ministry during COVID-19. The global pandemic has significantly impacted all aspects of youth ministries across our country. Churches are facing unprecedented challenges trying to minister to youth in their congregations.

Insurance Board's partnership with Praesidium continues to offer resources to help churches navigate these difficult times and maintain a safe environment for all youth. Join us for our fourth webcast on trending topics relating to COVID-19. This webcast is free and open to all, and participating can earn you one professional ethics training credit in the Florida Conference. To review previous webcasts, please go to www.insuranceboardlearning.com. To register, -> click here! ->

To earn one credit toward your professional ethics training requirements in the Florida Conference, simply attend and send a one-page summary to davecyril@uccfla.org.

2020 National Youth Event

Announcement regarding 2020 National Youth Event

Due to the unforeseeable impact of COVID-19 on the health, social, and physical distancing behaviors of the world, National Youth Event (NYE) at Purdue University is postponed until June 27-30, 2022.

We are disappointed but not discouraged, and we have been hard at work to offer meaningful and faithful virtual gatherings this summer. We recognize this is not the same, but nothing is the same. We look forward to welcoming all seniors for whom this may have been your last NYE to join us virtually and in 2022 as youth ambassadors.

Many of our original NYE presenters are excited to be able to put together meaningful content that will be shared via the web and will include live chat features during and after each premier.

More details and registration are soon to come and will be found on the -> NYE website ->.

Census deadline extended

This week the census announced that the deadline for collection of field date is now Oct. 31, with field offices slated to try and reopen June 1. This is a tentative proposal and hinges entirely on the ability to make sure census data gathering can be done safely.

This also means the deadline for the "apportionment counts" or those counts which determine Congressional representation are effectively pushed to April 30, 2021, with redistricting data to be delivered to states by July 31, 2021. This is a 120-day change from the original proposal.

Advocating for an accurate census is an act of faith. It is an affirmation of the God-given dignity and worth of every person. It is an important step toward making sure every individual has access to the social services they need and representation in the electoral process. Educating for and promoting an accurate census is one way we can act for justice in these challenging times.

The best way for people to respond is still online. Please respond online via the form you received in the mail. If someone wants to reply and hasn't received anything in the mail, you can go online and -> complete the census here ->.

ONA Coalition's Zoom services will continue during the pandemic

The Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ will offer daily morning prayer at 9 a.m. and noon Monday through Saturday in the Coalition's Zoom Chapel at http://zoom.us/j/5556624822. No password is required.

These services are designed to supplement online worship in your own congregation. Daily Morning Prayer is a 15-minute centering experience with psalm, scripture, silence, prayer and Taizé chant.

Prayers for churches and ministers

We invite you to join us in praying for the churches of your Conference. Each issue of e-Celebrate will contain the names of the churches we hope you will pray for personally and as a congregation. Meditate on them, pray for them, and sense your oneness together as the Body of Christ that is the United Church of Christ in Florida. This issue's churches:

  • Port Orange United Church of Christ
    Rev. Glenn Rice, pastor
  • Faith Congregational Church, Port St. Lucie
    Rev. Rob Hunter, pastor
  • First Congregational Church, Port St. Lucie
    Rev. Dr.Bruce Irwin, pastor

We also remember those in specialized ministry settings outside the local church whose presence provides spiritual care and support to many who are in need:

  • Rev. Anthony Britten-Campbell, chaplain, All Children's Hospital, Pastoral Care, St. Petersburg

Save the date

Postponed until 2022: National Youth Event, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. For more information, -> click here ->

Oct. 8-10: 2020 Annual Gathering of the Florida Conference of The United Church of Christ, Coral Gables Congregational UCC, 3010 DeSoto Blvd., Coral Gables, FL 33134. Stay tuned for more information.

Oct. 15-17, 2021: 2021 UCC Southern Region Women's Retreat, hosted by the Florida UCC Women at Cerveny Conference Center, 11057 Camp Weed Place, Live Oak, FL 32060. Stay tuned for more information.

e-Celebrate archive

UCC in Florida website

UCC national site

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